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Spider Myths vs. Facts

Many people have a fear of arachnids, especially spiders.  With that fear come myths of all varieties.  Some myths are believable and others are so far fetched that most people question them from the beginning, not believing them to be possible until they are heard over and over.  While we do not know the origin of many of the myths that circulate about spiders, a few have known sources.  Here are a few of the top spider myths currently in circulation:

#1 “You are never more than a few feet from a spider.”

This is an arguable myth as it is in some cases fact, but not all.  For example, a person sitting on a grass covered lawn, saying that they are likely to be within a few feet of a spider is probably an accurate statement.  A person that works as an airline pilot or in a high rise building on the top floor on the other hand are less likely to spend their days within a guaranteed few feet of a spider.  Possible, yes, probable though is less likely.  There are 35,000 spiders of identified description on file and about 3,000 of them living in North America, so this myth isn’t one that is difficult for most people to accept as truth.

#2 “You know a spider is a spider because they spin a web.”

Yes, many spiders do indeed spin webs as a method in which to capture their prey; however, not ALL spiders however utilize this method.  Wolf spiders hunt their prey like the predator their name derives from.  Jumping spiders, you guessed it, jump or pounce on their prey.  In the same sense, not all silk in the insect and arachnid world is produced by spiders.

#3 “Daddy Longlegs are the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too small to puncture human skin.”

Opiliones, more commonly known as daddy longlegs, are in fact not “true” spiders.  They are a separate order of arachnid.  Although they resemble spiders in appearance with eight legs, they lack the ability to produce silk and do not possess poison glands.  They do in fact have jaws, called chelicerae that are designed to tear apart their food; however, the lack of poison glands quickly debunks this urban myth.

#4 “All spiders are dangerous.”

For the most part, spiders are beneficial insect predators.  While there are a few spiders whose venom would be considered medically dangerous, the list of species is few.  In rare cases, an individual’s body may exhibit an adverse reaction to a spider bite; however, this does not necessarily indicate that the spider is of medical significance to all who encounter it.

#5 “Most people swallow an average of 8 spiders annually while they are asleep.”

This myth was actually started with the purpose of proving that people will believe anything that they hear or read.  A magazine columnist wrote an article in 1993 with a list of completely outlandish “facts” including this one about spiders to prove her point.  The myth remains in circulation today.